By on February 23, 2010

The House Energy and Commerce Committee kicks off the week’s Toyota-related festivities on Capitol Hill today, with the first round of hearings scheduled for 11 am Eastern. Testifying will be Toyota Motor America’s Jim Lentz, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Southern Illinois professor and ABC’s ghost hunter David Gilbert, Safety Research and Strategy’s Sean Kane, as well Eddie and Rhonda Smith, who reportedly experienced uncontrollable sudden acceleration in a Lexus ES350.  The E&C Committee has a live webcast available here, or you can watch on C-Span 3. The Detroit News’s David Shepardson is live-tweeting from the press events on the Hill leading up to the hearing.

Tomorrow is the main event, when CEO Akio Toyoda appears before the House Oversight Committee along with TMA President Yoshimi Inaba.

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23 Comments on “Toyota Hearings Begin Today...”

  • avatar

    Perfect time of the day to start the hearing. It’s lunchtime for 1st shift. We got the popcorn ready … Laptops are all charged up. Thanks for the links!

  • avatar
    crash sled

    So Government Motors is calling in a trial lawyer, and the trial lawyer’s technical consultant, as prime witnesses?

    Must be nice to be able to blatantly manipulate the political system, hidden out in plain sight. Those law firms have spent their money wisely.

  • avatar

    So that shill for the trial lawyers Sean Kane gets his big day in the sun! Can’t wait!

    And David “Short Circuit” Gilbert gets a shot too. A must-see for sure.

  • avatar

    Watching now. Love Bart Stupak’s mane and his Michigan accent — “Tay-oyota.” Looks like his mind is made up.

    Is it true that he has trouble with the “theory” of evolution?

    Joe Barton — “We should not go on a witch hunt.” Hear, hear!

  • avatar

    All the world is a stage…

  • avatar
    crash sled

    I’m not buying this Smith woman’s story. She shifted into reverse, and up and down through the gears, and the vehicle kept accelerating? She claims it even tried to start itself after the wrecker was hooked up to it, apparently, like Christine.

    Her car is possessed, and Toyota is the Devil, evidently.

    She may have a consumer complaint against Toyota, but the US Congress is certainly not the place to have her make it.

    I’d like to get the black box data from this incident, and review that vehicle’s status. Toyota needs to facilitate that data reader, and pronto.

    I’d note that the trial lawyer just testified that he “commissioned” that automotive tech guy to perform the ABC test. How convenient that this research supports his litigation business.

  • avatar

    I followed the link to the article on Rhonda Smith. The issue again was a rubber floormat improperly installed over the factory mat. Why is the service dealer that put it ther not being dragged before Congress?

    The whole point of a winter mat is to protec the factory mat. You remove the factory mat, store it in the trunk and install the rubber using the same clips.

    Someone should do a demo with the winter mat installed incorrectly…..if the mat don’t fit, you must aquit!

  • avatar

    I thought Toyoda black boxes had cognitive dissociative disorder? How’s anything to be proven beyond that?

  • avatar
    George B

    I’m interested in what Kevin Haggerty will say before congress. He had multiple instances of unintended acceleration and he was able to drive his Avalon to the dealership while the problem was occuring. Rare very well documented case.

  • avatar

    I’m really curious as to how the nice lady was able to shift into neutral and reverse at 100 mph without either stopping (which she was eventually able to, although she insists it was not because of shifting into neutral) or leaving her transmission on the freeway. I’m also mystified by Kane’s ability to simply rule out driver error.

    • 0 avatar

      Cars have had reverse lockouts, in the system not the linkage, since the 60s to prevent damage if the car is moving over a certain speed. The neutral thing is interesting tho.

    • 0 avatar

      On most slushbox-equipped new cars-and I’d bet a good sum of money the ES350 is amongst them-the shifter is not physically connected to the transmission; it’s just a joystick connected to the TCU.

      It is entirely possible that the TCU looks at a signal from the vehicle speed sensor, says “Oh, we’re doing 100mph, they can’t actually want reverse/neutral. I’m just going to ignore that request.”

      In fact, for reverse at the very least, I’d be surprised if it DIDN’T do that-if it didn’t it would just be a matter of time before someone jammed it into reverse by accident and sued the manufacturer for “letting them do something they shouldn’t be able to do.”

      The cars have an electronic problem. The Kevin Haggerty case, this woman’s testimony that the cruise control light came on when her ES took off, and David Gilbert’s findings all constitute prima facie evidence of this.

      I’m not saying that floor mats, sticky pedals and driver error aren’t contributing-or indeed, the primary-causes of the issues that people are reporting. After all, people as a rule are stupid, ignorant of the correct operation of their vehicles and prone to doing idiotic stuff in panic situations.

      However. The fact of the matter is that Gilbert has apparently come up with a way to get these things to fail to WOT. Failure to WOT is an unacceptable failure mode. Period. Further, his testing on other vehicles from other manufacturers has apparently failed to produce a similar failure mode, which implicitly indicates that Toyota is not coding their ECMs correctly.

      The question now becomes whether this is a failure mode that can ever manifest itself in real-world applications, which is something that apparently still needs to be answered. The cases of Kevin Haggerty and Mr. and Mrs. Smith imply that, however rare it may be, it can.

    • 0 avatar

      I was curious about her statement also. She said she shifted into neutral and (at least nominally) into reverse, yet the car wouldn’t stop. But eventually it did after she started praying. Divine intervention?

      I also don’t get how if the engine were off, how it could start on its own while being hooked up to the tow truck.

      Sorry, but this dog don’t hunt!

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    Hmmmm…..US Gov’t owns 2 out of the 3 US based auto companies along with the UAW having ownership as well.

    Hmmmm…..Unions are documented as being the highest providers of campaign funds in the USA over the past decade.

    Hmmmm…..USA gov’t representatives (and now our President) are dominated by lawyers as a prior profession.

    Hmmmm…..USA media shares few actual facts, data or critical analysis. Focuses on crisis sensationalism to drive viewership.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmmmm… hard-line questions designed to discredit the testimony came from reps with Toyota plants in their state.

      See… that game can be played from both sides.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Well, that’s true. On the one hand, we have congressmen supporting the jobs of hardworking autoworkers in Indiana, who are producing value, and on the other hand we have congressmen supporting the jobs of hardworking trial lawyers in Washington, who are emptying somebody else’s pockets and lining their own, and producing nothing of value.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    One of the congresscritters just dropped a bomb. Evidently, she claims that Toyota’s lawyers just released a stateemnt that the auto tech proffy’s work is a result of “sabotage”, and only “sabotage” could lead to the result he got. The poor proffy got a bit flustered.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    John Dingell, the congressman representing the UAW, and whose wife is a Government Motors executive working for the General Motors subsidiary, is currently interrogating Lentz. It’s pretty funny!

    Dingell is a treasure. I like this guy, and his motivations are always clear and understandable. Rough, but he’s open about it.

    Lentz just said Toyota would be providing 100 black box recorders to the US by April, so that’s news.

    Lentz also played the sympathy card, about his brother dying in a car accident, and started choking up. There is no crying in the car business. This guy is NOT a car guy.

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